During the second Homeward Bound voyage we’re bringing you stories from the ship of more than 20 of the participants, plus members of the leadership team, in their words and pictures.

TeamHB2018 are now officially on their journey home from the Antarctic Peninsula. As part of the on-board activities our next HB Correspondent Jessica Brainard is leading a group art project that aims to both document the voyage and align the internal and external journeys of the participants. Jessica has a background in environmental science communication, and is passionate about the connection between art and science. She examines our disconnect with creativity and the rewards art and science can bring if we can get past the negative self-talk.  


It’s 9:30 pm. As we pass through the Antarctic Circle, the Antarctic dusk has finally given way to nightfall. The buzz of excitement from another full day of activities is settling down. Glue sticks, coloured pencils, paint, embroidery thread and other supplies are scattered around the ship’s common area. The post-dinner art session has begun.

In one corner, a Homeward Bounder is giving watercolour lessons. Others are reflecting on what ‘home’ means to them as they contemplate the mark they wish to leave in our collective art book. At the centre of this scene is a large tapestry of linen fabric donned with a map of the Antarctic Peninsula. Here aboard the M/V Ushuaia, art and science come together as we cruise through this magical iceberg-studded seascape.

The Homeward Bound women in science leadership initiative includes a physical journey to Antarctica as well as an inner journey of reflection, growth and transformation. This outer and inner journey thematically underpins our collective art project, Confluence: A Journey Homeward Bound.

We’re creating two collective artworks during our time aboard the ship. The first is the fabric map of the Antarctic Peninsula on which we’re charting our course and recording daily environmental observations — from weather data to wildlife sightings, the map tapestry reflects our outer journey.

The second piece is a collective artist book. Each participant and faculty member has been allotted one page of handmade paper on which to include a map of their literal, figurative or spiritual home. In addition to our ‘home map’, we’ve encouraged everyone to include personal insights and reflections of their respective journey toward integration. Each of us is coming into Homeward Bound with our own story. Together, our individual pages form the larger collective book.

As I scan the art-making space, I hear the conversation shift between recounts of the day’s wildlife sightings to queries about how to join in the collective art project. I sense the trepidation of many participants and hear a common refrain: “What am I supposed to do? I’m not creative. Art isn’t my thing.”

I’m on a ship with nearly 80 women in science in one of the most remote and wild regions of the planet. All of us are accomplished, many of us hold a PhD, and one of us has even earned a Nobel Prize. Yet I am shocked by how many of us succumb to that little voice of doubt inside our head that tells us we’re not ‘enough’. Again and again, I hear: “I’m not artistic. My daughter or sister is the creative one, not me.”

What is the source of all this negative self-talk? As children, we’re all inherently creative. But as we advance through the gauntlet of our educational system, we’re often forced to decide between fostering our rational and analytical side and nurturing our empathetic and expressive selves. It’s a false dichotomy.

Although often held up as two opposing disciplines, art and science rely on observation and synthesis — taking what is seen and creating something new from it. Science can prove truths to us, while art makes us feel them.

Frank Oppenheimer, the founder of the Exploratorium hands-on science centre in San Francisco, called artists and scientists “the official ‘noticers’ of society.” Our society could hardly exist without either, but when science and art come together, our culture is enriched, often in unexpected ways.

Much of what we’ve explored on our Homeward Bound journey is about challenging the myths we tell ourselves. We are finding our individual and collective voice — not only as women in science, but also as Mother Nature’s daughters. The Confluence: A Journey Homeward Bound on-board art project is a way to integrate our many identities and reclaim our creativity. In our voyage ‘homeward bound’, ultimately, we are coming home to ourselves.

Look out for the next update about the Homeward Bound art project and its outcomes post-voyage, here on the HB Blog.


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